Friday, December 28, 2007

Eyes Wide Shut

I can't say I was an optimist before Maddy died. However, despite my cynical and sarcastic streak, I was not a full-blown pessimist either. Cautious optimist? Realist? Hard to even remember. I will say at this point though, I tend to fall on the glass nearing empty side. Color me experienced, or jaded, or knowledgeable, but I do know now exactly how that glass can get drained in the blink of an eye.

For a few months after Maddy died, in addition to everything else grief threw at me, I experienced severe anxiety issues regarding my husband and daughter. I suppose it's not remotely unusual for someone in my position to fear losing the rest of my family, but I just wasn't quite ready for the graphic nature of these day-mares. I'd cling to my husband, not wanting him to get in the car for work in the morning, and then approach hyperventilation imagining him in a horrific accident. And the vision didn't stop there -- now that I know what the interior of an intensive care unit is like, I could easily envision him, with his eyes closed, hooked to this monitor and that ventilator and what drips would be going through the IV, and how his color might look . . . it was all a bit too real. The same was true for Bella. It wasn't simply fearing that she'd run into the street, it was the entire scenario from start (car hitting, sound, body flying, sound when body lands) to finish in the most minute of detail.

While the visions have let up considerably for Mr. ABF (stops typing to find wood to knock), they still occasionally abound for Bella. Most traumatic for me are household accidents of an obscenely freakish nature -- falling off her bed and breaking her neck, tipping back in her chair and smashing her skull, that sort of thing. Every other word out of my mouth is "Be Careful." And not in a paranoid mom kind of way, but in a desperate, can't-lose-my-one-last-ray-of-light kind of way. Last Saturday, Bella had raging pink eye. Sunday night, at 2 a.m., I was awakened by her screaming in fright "Mommy, I can't open my eye!" I cradled her head, put a warm washcloth to her swollen lid, and suddenly my heart stopped and my eyes flooded with tears. She was Maddy, Maddy was her. A struggling girl without the ability to open her eye, her mom gently dabbing her lid, willing them open. It was a flashback of the worst sort, and it took a fair amount of brain lecturing heart to convince the latter that Bella's white matter would not liquefy overnight. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night curled up right next to her, not sleeping through my nightmares. I certainly was not there for her sake.

Meg got me thinking about the New Year
, and the adage in the deadbabymomma-verse that "it certainly can't get any worse." But sadly, I know it can. I know now exactly what can happen when you least expect it. I know the universe can fuck you over no matter how careful you are, and despite everything you do to prepare yourself. I know that medical science is incredibly advanced, and yet royally lagging in certain aspects. I know what's it's like to sleep in a hospital chair. I know what it's like to watch a human die, in my arms. I know now that those we like to think we can count on for support in good times may very well not be able to handle the bad, and may abandon the duct-taped lifeboat for the Cruise Ship with nary a wave goodbye. I would like to think that I've reached the bottom of this particular cesspool, but recent events have proven that this isn't necessarily the case.

I don't wish anymore. I don't dream anymore. I've given up hoping for anything. I like to say I don't have a horizon, nothing to look at off at in the future. There's nothing I really want there anyway, and any such dreams would likely end in futility. I would like to think that '08 couldn't get any worse, but I'm certainly not putting any bets on that. It damn well could. Let's just use any scintilla of hope I have left and hope it doesn't and leave it at that.


meg said...

Tash, I have this anxiety all the time. I have to say: "Drive carefully" every time D leaves the house, in case the universe laughs again at me and kills him in the car. The vet actually told me she had a dream about me calling her, because I had called so many times in the first few months of the hairy one's life. That is the extent of my anxiety. I just figure that they (the Dog and D) are all I have left, so I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I'm scared to say that things can't get worse next year, because I know they can. That being said, I would like to believe that the lightening that struck me so many times, will spare anyone else around me. I know this sounds insane, but it gives me comfort to know that good things can still happen in this world.

Which Box said...

I have this anxiety too, though it is fairly low level most of the time. For me, I've figured out it's partly hormonal - my form of post partum depression is this type of anxiety, so after losing my last pregnancy in February, I had acute episodes of vivid imagining all the thousands of ways my daughter and husband could be hurt or killed. It's horrible, and thankfully not as strong now.

I wrote a month or so ago on my blog that I was a natural optimist. I can feel that I still am - it's bubbling up, trying to assert itself, and I'm doing my damnedest to squelch it down. God help me, 2008 could be worse than 2007. As bad as 2007 was, I made it through. There are plenty of scenarios I can imagine that I couldn't get through.

I think the key thing is to try to retain a level of normalcy. It's ok to say Be Careful constantly. It won't be ok if my fears prevent my daughter from doing fun things, leading a "normal" life as she grows up. She deserves the chance to try and fail and fall and try again. But yeah, next time you're up at night listening to Bella breathe, know I'm probably up too doing the same.

Searching said...

What a sucky way to feel all the time. :( I'd suggest drugs (the legal kind) but I would hope ALL deadbabymommas are offered them already. Just being a neurotic nurse, but do you eat enough? Eat healthy, get at least some uninterrupted sleep now and then, drink plenty of water? Yoga/meditation/exercise? (Not gonna knock you on that one since I'm not so good at sticking to the above. My meditation consists of me humming loudly in my head when I can't get it to shut up for me to sleep. It's something). Don't want you running yourself into the ground completely. I care about you too much for that.

I liked your post about Bella's Christmas. :) My niece and nephews got 2 trunks full of dress up clothes for them all to share. Princess and ballerina outfits to pirates and superheroes. I was a bit jealous, it looked like fun. I'm a fan of letting kids dress up however they want. If a boy wants to be Cinderella for a day and a girl He-Man, fine by me. It's nourishing their creative sides. (Alright, and so I wanted to be He-Man when I was little so I'm prob a bit biased. Thanks, mom the psychotherapist!)

Aurelia said...

Tash, I read you all the time, and sometimes I just never know what to say.

I know what you are describing, I go through it myself a lot. Those horrible PTSD flashbacks (daymares) that scare me half to death and make me think of all the things that could happen, but likely won't happen.

You deserve a hundred good things happening to you honey, and I hope you get them, personally, I know the anxiety does ease after awhile. It just takes time, a long time.

I'm thinking of you.

Julia said...

I go cold with terror once in a while, more often some weeks than others, but my daymares are lightning-quick, and not as detailed as yours. I am sorry...

I, too, hope the next year isn't worse. How fucked up is it that this is the kind of thing we hope for?

Beruriah said...

My imagination is oh too vivid as well. For months when Josh was out without me I'd imagine police officers coming to the door to tell me a car had hit him on his bike. I'd imagine the whole scenario, the officer's words, their reaction to seeing me, the car ride to the hospital, and so on. Would I drive myself? Ride with them? Who would I call first?

I am so sorry the visions continue with Bella. I wish I knew how to stop them for you. I now have terrified fears for Samuel. It's a hellish part of this misadventure - strangely enough he had conjunctivitis on Sunday night, probably procured during a visit to the pediatrician's office Friday.

I certainly hope with all that I have that 2008 will bring better days to you.

niobe said...

After reading the comments, I realize that I don't have quite the same reaction as the other commenters.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that there are lots of terrible things out there, just waiting to happen to me, but I can't say that I'm terribly anxious about them. More fatalistic, really.

For example, I *know* that if the IVF transfer works, the baby will die. So it's not really something I feel all that anxious about, because in my mind it's just a question of when and how.